Salary settled, teachers picket
Teacher layoff policy is the last stumbling block in prolonged contract negotiations between School District 191 and its teachers union.
At their April 25 meeting, negotiators settled on 13 of 14 outstanding items, including salary, said Wendy Drugge, president of the Burnsville Education Association.
The following day teachers took to the sidewalks near the district office with picket signs, frustrated that 300 days had passed without a two-year contract to replace the one that expired last June 30.
The use of seniority in making teacher layoffs, often referred to as “last in, first out,” has been a contentious issue statewide.
State law made strict seniority a fallback position for deciding layoffs in districts that hadn’t negotiated their own layoff plans.
Legislation passed last year now requires districts to negotiate their procedures for handling unrequested leaves of absence, Drugge said. Those plans, which must be in place by July 1, 2019, can rely on the state statute on seniority or include seniority in a hybrid policy, according to Drugge.
In language proposals released by the district, the district strikes a reference to the seniority statute while the BEA retains it.
“Our staffing shouldn’t be dictated by seniority, it should be dictated by needs,” School Board Chair Jim Schmid said in an interview.
When choosing teachers for budget-related layoffs, the district should be able to retain an experienced teacher in a specialized position even if another teacher with more total years of seniority is licensed to take over that position, Schmid said.
The career Pathways and College in the Schools programs at Burnsville High School are examples of where such flexibility is needed, he said.
The BEA accommodated the district’s position in its proposal, Drugge said. It calls for the board to annually list “staffing retention priorities,” exempt those areas from the layoff process and use the remaining “secondary seniority list” to make layoffs in the event of budget cuts.
“I hope that the district realizes that what we’ve offered them helps them attract and retain quality teachers,” Drugge said. “It also meets what they said were their requirements. We have tried to address all of their requirements, but we’ve also done it in a way that is fair and transparent. Teachers need to be able to plan for their families and their futures.”
The board proposal doesn’t abandon seniority as a layoff criterion but places other considerations ahead of it. One is discipline. Teachers who have received disciplinary action within the last five years would move up the list of layoff candidates.
Schmid noted that many progressive steps are taken before any teacher behavior results in a formal disciplinary action.
“We want people to understand that we’re not these thoughtless bureaucrats just sitting behind the desk and trying to figure out ways to get rid of teachers,” he said. “We’re there to serve the students and to make their education the best possible.”
Drugge questioned the need for the discipline provision in language on unrequested leaves. Language on discipline and teacher development and evaluation is found elsewhere in the contract, she said.
The section on unrequested leaves is not meant to be used “as a way to release teachers in a punitive way,” she said.
The contract increases the teacher salary schedule by 1.5 percent in the first year and 2.5 percent in the second. The increases are on top of “step and lane” increases teachers receive for years of experience and for additional education.
Drugge said the settlement is below the metro average settlement of 2.2 to 2.3 percent a year, though some large districts have yet to settle.
The contract’s total salary and benefit increase over two years is 8.5 percent, and total teacher pay will rise by $6 million, according to the district.
The two sides have no deadline for settling.
“But it causes angst,” Schmid said of the prolonged talks. “The board understands that. If they called us up tomorrow and wanted to meet, we would meet.”
Another negotiating session was scheduled for Wednesday, May 2, with a mediation session scheduled for the following Wednesday, he said.
Teachers have since April 9 been “working to rule,” meaning they don’t work beyond contract hours or continue in volunteer roles.
“We have a plan in place to reassess if we feel we need to change it,” Drugge said.
Spring volunteer roles for teachers include volunteering at prom and reading names at graduation.
Post a comment as anonymous
Watch this discussion.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.